"The signal the administration is sending to auto companies is: Do whatever you
want," said Dan Becker, who runs the Safe Climate Campaign. "The world is
looking to California to resist these rollbacks that will not just impede the
growth of electric vehicles, but also the growth of more fuel-efficient gasoline
Carmakers are left to gamble on how aggressively to follow California's
blueprint as the Trump administration tries to undermine it ...
[... auto] companies are keenly aware that ignoring the plans laid by
California can be perilous.
They can't afford to manufacture different cars for different parts of the
country, and California plans to keep the current, ambitious fuel economy
goal and the electric-vehicle mandate that goes hand in hand with it. So
unless the Trump administration can block the state from going its own way,
relaxing federal rules won't help the automakers much ...
Environmental Protection Agency keeps threatening to challenge California's
authority, pointing to the state's outsize influence over what cars get
built. "Federalism doesn't mean that one state can dictate to the rest of
the country," EPA chief Scott Pruitt said at a Senate hearing Tuesday ...
The state is showing no sign of flinching ... California has little
incentive to make concessions ...
The tension will increase next month, when the EPA completes a review of the
current rules and starts to lay out its plans for rolling back mileage
standards. The agency is under pressure from automakers who object that
there isn't a large enough market right now to support a big infusion of
smaller, lighter, less-polluting cars and trucks.
It's a familiar story in the auto industry: Gas prices are low, the profit
margin on sport utility vehicles is high and even as the companies boast of
plans to roll out dozens of new electrified vehicles in the next few years,
they would prefer to soak up profits from the SUV buying binge for as long
as possible ...
"GM went into bankruptcy with a promise to stop making so many bigger cars
and start making littler cars," said Maryann Keller, an analyst who has been
tracking fuel economy issues for three decades. As long as gas is cheap and
government incentives for driving low-emission vehicles are limited,
however, persuading drivers to buy them is a challenge ...